The New Dumbed-down SAT: Reflecting the Common Core Curriculum

The two test portions of the English Writing portion of the test will be eliminated, and the essay will be optional.

The Critical Reading section will be watered down: Instead of the one-third of the current Reading Comprehension tests that stress vocabulary, students will be figuring out "vocabulary-in-context" meanings from the sentences. Significantly easier.

The math section will cover fewer math concepts.

For those unfamiliar with the history of the test,there was an an earlier dumbing down of the exam: In 1995, after 30 years of falling SAT test scores, the College Board "re-centered" the exam. So. for instance, a 600 on a test (out of 800 per section) is now about 650-670. That 480 you received in math? Now that's about 540 or higher.

To cover up a failing school system.

So, when you read that SAT scores have remained constant over the years, that is not exactly accurate.

Back then, no one studied, you showed up and took the test, and scores were a bit higher, or the same. Trouble is, they weren't the same, staring in 1995, scores were inflated. Now, students study and prepare, and still scores back then were higher.

The changes are alarming.


Information on the New Test.

College Board:

Stay tuned, more coming

Must Read, Article from the Washington Post: (Spring 2014)

"As the SAT changes again, colleges lose critical measures

By Washington Post Editorial Board March 8

IT’S THE NEWS that will launch a thousand test-preparation courses: The College Board is once again altering the SAT, the much-criticized college admissions exam that has struggled to defend its approach to student assessment. The SAT’s writers appear to be doing two things: changing what it tests; and making it easier. There’s reason for the former, and danger in the latter.

The SAT has had a rough several years, as critics have continued to charge that performance on the exam doesn’t predict college performance well, or much better than students’ socio-economic status does. Worse from the College Board’s perspective, no doubt, is that the SAT is now a less popular college entrance exam than the ACT, which used to be common in the center of the country and very rare on the West Coast and in the Northeast.

So the College Board is conducting its second revamp in a decade. The writing section, which didn’t test many of the qualities of good argumentation, such as accuracy and correct use of source materials, will be optional, not mandatory. The exam will no longer expect students to know difficult, lesser-used vocabulary words. Advanced mathematical concepts will disappear from the exam, and it sounds as though some math sections will force students to do more raw computation in their heads rather than on calculators. The penalty for random guessing will also go.

The general idea, the SAT’s designers say, is to move the exam closer to what students actually learn in high school, rather than testing a set of skills that they and colleges might find less relevant. It’s no accident that this push comes from a College Board president who helped produce the K-12 Common Core standards, which aim to establish a national grade-school curriculum.

Integrating the SAT with what’s taught in class is a fine idea, particularly since the exam’s writers gave up on their claim to measure raw aptitude years ago. But making the exam easier in order to chase the ACT isn’t. It sounds as though students could conceivably get a perfect score on the new exam and yet struggle to fully comprehend some of the articles in this newspaper. Colleges should want to know if their would-be English majors are conversant in words more challenging than “synthesis,” or that their scores reflect more than lucky bubble guesses, now that wrong answers carry no penalty.

The SAT’s fiercest critics claim that the test is practically useless, reflecting little more than students’ socio-economic status. Grades alone are better predictors of college success, they argue. But grades can be misleading, too, since their value depends on the particular expectations of individual schools and even individual teachers. Colleges are right to want a common assessment in the mix as they evaluate applicants, including top inner-city students who might have spotless transcripts but few other ways to demonstrate that they’ve achieved as much as or more than other applicants at schools with better reputations.

No standardized test will be close to perfect. But a better approach would include a rigorous exam, or set of exams, linked tightly to the content and skills students claim to have learned, a system more akin to the Advanced Placement program than to the old SAT. From the sound of it, the new SAT won’t be that."

Kathleen Parker: (Washington Post) The new SAT don’t care ’bout no fancy words

Kathleen Parker writes a twice-weekly column on politics and culture. She received the Pulitzer Prize for Commentary In 2010.

"When the going gets tough, well, why not just make the going easier?

This seems to be the conclusion of the College Board, which administers the dreaded SAT college entrance exam. Recently announced “improvements” to the test are designed, say board officials, to better gauge what students study and learn in high school. Shouldn’t take too long.

Thus, the new SAT will take less time and consist of multiple-choice questions as follows: (a) yes; (b) no; (c) maybe; (d) none of the above.

Fine. Perhaps I exaggerate (pardon the multiple syllables) just a tad. But one does fear that such tweaking is really a stab at greater market share — many students have turned from the SAT to ACT — and an adjustment to the fact that student scores have been falling.

Owing to what, one wonders? Surely not the gradual degradation of pre-college education.

By making the test more “accessible,” board officials theorize, more students will be able to attend college, where, presumably, they will flourish. The test no longer will include fancy words, otherwise known as a rich vocabulary, or require a timed essay. The math section will be adapted so that people who aren’t so good at math, including but not limited to future journalists, can pretend they are.

These tweaks are a shame inasmuch as educators lose measures that provided critical information. The essay, for instance, wasn’t a call to Emersonian excellence but was a way of determining whether a student can compose a coherent sentence — you know: subject, verb, all that stuff — not to mention whether one can think. If a person can’t write a series of sentences to express a cogent thought, does that person really qualify for a college education? For what purpose?

The most entertaining test area — the analogy — was eliminated in 2005. Again, too hard? Analyzing analogies was not aimed at tripping up lower-income students who otherwise would be Fulbright-bound but of evaluating cognitive ability. Can the kid think?

Critics of the SAT maintain that the test is biased in favor of students from wealthier families. We all want a level playing field and equal opportunity for children. This is fundamental to who we are. But if we truly want to improve everyone’s chance at eventual employment and success, the playing field needs to be plowed and seeded well before the harvest of standardized testing.

It starts with schools and teachers, and everybody knows it.

Yet today grades are inflated to assuage low student self-esteem and justify flaws in curricula and instruction. In this setting, it seems that rigorous standardized testing is more crucial than ever. As for the income differential in comparing test scores, outcomes have more to do with access to good schools and teachers than whether certain words aren’t common among lower-income students.

Does anyone really think that asking a college-bound student to know the difference between punctilious and punctual is a function of income-related bias? One would hope that college-bound students are both of these.

It is indeed unfair that children from less prosperous homes often are stuck with the schools they get, while students from more prosperous families live in areas with better schools or can attend a private school of their choosing. Financially better-off students also have greater access to preparation courses, which the College Board helpfully will begin offering online without charge.

But there are other confounding factors that contribute to inequality as measured by testing. More prosperous students also tend to be beneficiaries of educated families that provide a ­learning-rich environment. Inestimable is the immense advantage of growing up in a house full of books and witnessing parents who read them.

We can’t make the world perfectly equal outcome-wise, but we can keep trying to improve opportunity through better schools and teachers. This is where the real challenges lie, but this, too, is perhaps too hard. Making tests easier so that more will pass becomes a far more accessible solution.

Periodic revision of standardized testing may be justified and, in some instances, even laudable. A new SAT focus on founding documents and their authors is one welcome shift. As to whether the new test will be useful in advancing capable students who, for whatever reason, weren’t able to demonstrate their abilities through testing — time will tell.

But saying students are ready for college doesn’t make it so."

New Sample SAT Exam

Link to Sample New SAT Exam.

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US Department of Education, huge, comprehensive site, search on lots of criteria


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